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The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction…

The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (original 2017; edition 2018)

by Catherine Nixey (Author)

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3621250,124 (3.63)13
A New York Times Notable Book of 2018 "Searingly passionate...Nixey writes up a storm. Each sentence is rich, textured, evocative, felt...[A] ballista-bolt of a book." --New York Times Book Review   In Harran, the locals refused to convert. They were dismembered, their limbs hung along the town's main street. In Alexandria, zealots pulled the elderly philosopher-mathematician Hypatia from her chariot and flayed her to death with shards of broken pottery. Not long before, their fellow Christians had invaded the city's greatest temple and razed it--smashing its world-famous statues and destroying all that was left of Alexandria's Great Library.   Today, we refer to Christianity's conquest of the West as a "triumph." But this victory entailed an orgy of destruction in which Jesus's followers attacked and suppressed classical culture, helping to pitch Western civilization into a thousand-year-long decline. Just one percent of Latin literature would survive the pur≥ countless antiquities, artworks, and ancient traditions were lost forever.     As Catherine Nixey reveals, evidence of early Christians' campaign of terror has been hiding in plain sight: in the palimpsests and shattered statues proudly displayed in churches and museums the world over. In The Darkening Age, Nixey resurrects this lost history, offering a wrenching account of the rise of Christianity and its terrible cost.… (more)
Title:The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World
Authors:Catherine Nixey (Author)
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2018)
Collections:Your library, Currently reading

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The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey (2017)


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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
While I agree with her thesis, I found it very difficult to read her argument. It felt more like I was reading a series of ranting blog posts rather than a long form, well-planned journalistic piece. At times, she sounds like some of the Christians she (correctly) rails against. ( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
Very thorough explanation of the period and early Christians. I think it explains so much of how and why fanatical Christians are just as horrible today. ( )
  John_Danenbarger | Sep 2, 2019 |
A fascinating, compelling book. It depicts the events of unfamiliar periods vividly and with accessible, scholarly but heartfelt language. Reading this filled me with displeasure at how little of this history I'd encountered before, and regularly with anger at the cultural annihilation repeatedly enacted on humanity over the millennia at the hands of zealots of all stripes. It seems odd to call it "enjoyable" but it was a very worthwhile read and I plan to seek out more of hers immediately. ( )
  Shimmin | Aug 3, 2019 |
Ah well, not an easy review to write. Here's the bottom line: Human beings are Not Nice. When authority falters into the vacuum pours anything from barbarians to religious extremists and often the civil structure cannot hold and a period of upheaval and turmoil (lots and lots of pointless deaths, destruction, re-allocation of property etc.) ensues. Then the winners rewrite everything and claim it was All For the Best! And We Have Improved! We did it here in the USA about exterminating the native people. What happened as the Roman Empire collapsed was appalling and Christian fanaticism and extremism was an integral part of the dismantling of an astonishingly inclusive and tolerant culture that put its faith in civil law (yes, backed up by military might). We might nowadays regard some of those laws as questionable, but for the most part, if you were male and a citizen, you had some protections and rights and even women and slaves had a few-- certainly more than in any other existing culture in the West at that time. Christian rewriting and skewing of how their religion came to dominate the West in such a short time does need examining and re-evaluation. The Catholic Church which grew out of this earlier time period, among other things has always been a law unto itself: even now religious institutions constantly petition to exist independently of civil law. Early Christians excused much violence as sanctioned by God and set precedents about being above the law, among others, about sexuality and culture, notions that have encouraged hypocritical behavior ever since given tghat human beings are what they are and always will be. To me, this book is an attempt at a correction, if you will and in line with contemporary historical practice. Kid yourself if you wish that she, Nixey, is not a "real" scholar. (She! stop and think! That "she" forms the first snort of dismissal.) She is a trained historian (classics, ancient history at Cambridge -- does it get more serious than that??), a former teacher of same, and only recently a journalist. I would have given the book more stars but I don't think it was organized effectively. Nixey made the choice to cover specific places (Alexandria, say), specific types of people (philosphers), even sometimes specific individuals, but there is something jumbled here that I haven't quite put a finger on. The message is not a pleasing one for many, but nonetheless important. **** ( )
  sibylline | Jul 12, 2019 |
There's a real need for a popular book that discusses the destruction done to classical Greek and Roman art and literature by overzealous Christians. Unfortunately, Nixey's book is more of a diatribe than a discussion. A number of the incidents of destruction she relates are based on hagiographic writing, yet her sole acknowledgment that hagiography is not history is a single sentence almost halfway through her book. She neglects to mention relevant facts, for example that the circumcellions whose outrages she lists were condemned as heretics by the Church of their time and were a regional, not an empire-wide, problem; or that Shenoute, the abbot whom she pillories for his fanaticism and cruelty, was a reformer who insisted all his monks and nuns become literate and who was hailed for assisting poor peasants to remain independent. Also missing is a clear indication of the time line for many incidents and any acknowledgment of other pressures on both the Empire and the Church, like ongoing influxes of "barbarians" during the era she explores. Yes, there were many outrages, but many were condemned by church officials and some at least were due to other actors. ( )
  nmele | May 17, 2019 |
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“To T.,
for deciphering my handwriting.”
First words
Palmyra, c. AD 385
'There is no crime for those who have Christ.'
St Shenoute

The destroyers came from out of the desert.
Athens, AC 532
'We see the same stars, the sky is shared by all, the same world surrounds us. What does it matter what wisdom a person uses to seek for the truth?'
The 'pagan' author Symmachus

'That all superstition of pagans and heathens should be annihilated is what God wants. God commands, God proclaims!'
St Augustine

They must have been a melancholy party.
Chapter One
The Invisible Army
'Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.'
Luke 10:19

Satan knew how to tempt St Antony.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Despite the long-held notion that the early Christians were meek and mild, going to their martyr's deaths singing hymns of love and praise, the truth, as Catherine Nixey reveals, is very different. Far from being meek and mild, they were violent, ruthless and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the polytheistic world, in which the addition of one new religion made no fundamental difference to the old ones, this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and the light but that, by extension, every single other way was wrong and had to be destroyed. From the 1st century to the 6th, those who didn't fall into step with its beliefs were pursued in every possible way: social, legal, financial and physical. Their altars were upturned and their temples demolished, their statues hacked to pieces and their priests killed. It was an annihilation. Authoritative, vividly written and utterly compelling, this is a remarkable debut from a brilliant young historian.
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